When people think of drug and alcohol addicts, they usually picture a young male. Substance abuse in the elderly is not commonly spoken about, but it is a real problem that affects many older adults and their families. The issue with seniors abusing drugs is that it often goes overlooked. Seniors are prescribed medication more often than anyone else, and they rarely have people watching over the amount they are taking. Bystanders might assume that erratic behavior is due to age and not substance abuse as well and they won’t get the help that they need.
The Facts About Substance Abuse in the Elderly
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, People over the age of 65 only account for 13 percent of our population, but they account for more than one-third of the people who use prescription drugs. They are likely to be prescribed a number of different drugs and may have a difficult time keeping track of which they took and didn’t take.
A little-known concern in the elderly is that many are on a fixed income, and as a result, they may modify their medication intake without discussing it with their doctor. They may also share medications with other people and that can lead to dangerous interactions or overdose.
Due to the amount of medication an older person might be on, there is a much higher chance that something can go wrong. Additionally, they are more likely to have other ailments that can cause them to have an adverse effect or form a dependence.
The Challenge with Substance Abuse in the Elderly
Getting an elderly person into treatment is challenging for a number of reasons. First of all, it is much harder to recognize a drug or alcohol problem before it has escalated significantly. At that point, it is difficult to get an elderly person to admit they have a problem because of a sense of pride and the thought that this couldn’t happen to them.
Older individuals may have a hard time grasping that they have a problem. They also have a very difficult time getting over the potential embarrassment and guilt about letting their families down.
It is essential for the loved ones of an older person that needs treatment to be supportive and understanding of their situation. An intervention may be a good idea, or going with the person to speak to a trusted doctor or therapist. Like anyone else, elderly people need substance abuse treatment as well. Being a slave to drugs or alcohol is no way to live out your golden years!